Influenza cases are on the rise here, throughout the Milwaukee area, Wisconsin and the entire country, and the Wauwatosa Health Department has scheduled added flu clinic dates this month, especially to address concerns about older citizens.
This year's outbreak is the worst in five years, national health agencies say, and seems to be peaking later than usual.
The most virulent of several strains abroad this flu season is one that hits seniors more frequently and with worse effects, said a Wauwatosa health official.
"It is striking the elderly pretty hard," nursing supervisor Laurie Nielsen of the Health Department said Thursday. "Flu cases aren't reported to us unless they are hospitalized. But we have had a number of cases of people hospitalized, and they tend to be the elderly."
The old and those with existing health problems or compromised immune systems always are the most likely to end up in the hospital with influenza, but this season has been particularly rough on even the elderly who are in otherwise good health.
The most virulent strain, the H3N2 virus, has also been shown to be more prevalent among elderly citizens, Nielsen said – and there has been some misinformation about it that may have kept some people from getting vaccinations who might otherwise have done so.
"I've been hearing rumors out there that H3N2 is not covered in this year's vaccine," Nielsen said, "and that isn't true. It is covered; it's in there, and you will be protected."
By contrast with the elderly population, the Wauwatosa Public Schools have not been hard hit – yet. Other area school districts have, including Waukesha.
"There has been no significant increase in flu absences," district community liaison Laura Wainscott said Thursday afternoon. "I just got an update from the district nurse, Sally Roepe, and we just haven't really had anything. We've been very lucky."
Nielsen said she has heard next to nothing about any flu outbreaks from either the public or private schools or even from preschools and daycare centers. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.
Nielsen said the Health Department is strongly encouraging everyone who has not had a flu vaccination this year to get one now, because the flu season is not over and the number of cases continues to grow.
"We decided we needed to add to our vaccination program and just this morning announced more dates in January," Nielsen said.
- Thursday, Jan. 17, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
- Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2 to 4 p.m.
- Thursday, Jan. 24, 2 to 4 p.m. (regular immunization clinic)
- Monday, Jan. 28, 2 to 4 p.m.
Vaccinations are $25 for adults; free for children up to 18. The Health Department is located on the west lower level of the Civic Building at 7725 W. North Ave. Payment are reimbusable to those with with Railroad Medicare or Medicare with an HMO replacement plan.
Public health nurses are available to make home visits to administer flu vaccine to Wauwatosa children or adults who are home-bound due to a health, disability or mobility issue. The fee for adult vaccine applies. Call (414) 479-8939 to arrange a visit.
Nielsen said she monitors Wisconsin's Flu Resource, the state's flu information website, on a regular basis for updates, and she urges others to do the same.
Flu cases in the Milwaukee area as a whole have increased to an “intense” level, significantly exceeding moderate levels in 2011-12, according to Google Flu Trends.
Wisconsin is among 42 states to have a widespread flu outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All 50 states are reporting symptoms, with Hawaii only reporting sporadic cases.
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More than 1,200 people in Wisconsin have been hospitalized because of flu symptoms, creating crowding problems at Milwaukee-area hospitals, according to Today’s TMJ4.
This year’s flu season is the worst in five years in Wisconsin, and it hasn’t reached its highest point yet. The season peaks in a few weeks, according to Fox 6 News.
Flu symptoms and information
The influenza is contracted through drops of moisture spread through the air when a person cough, sneezes or talks, according to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health. Symptoms can take between one and three days to appear. Infected people can be contagious for one day before the illness and up to five days after the illness.
According to the state health agency, symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Aching in the muscles and joints
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following information:
- Who should get vaccinated
- When to get vaccinated
- Selecting a flu vaccine
- Symptoms, complications and severity
- Treatment if you get the flu
- How flu spreads
Where else to get a flu shot
If you don't want to wait a week for a city flu clinic, many area pharmacies also offer vaccinations, although usually an appointment is necessary.
All Wauwatosa and area Walgreen's stores offer the flu vaccine. Stores are located at: